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High ropes challenge course approved

Non-union Hubbard County employees are projected to get a 3 percent wage hike for 2011, but department heads may find their salaries frozen.

As various departments begin the budgeting process, county commissioners want to treat employees, union or otherwise, fairly.

Because union workers are in the last year of a three-year contract guaranteeing them 3 percent salary hikes, county board members don't want non-union employees to be treated differently.

But county board chair Lyle Robinson said at the end of this contract, he doesn't envision more annual wage hikes as given out in the past.

"We've been more than generous with the way the downturn has been," said commissioner Cal Johannsen. "We're going to have to do some catch-up. The employees have to know that."

"We can't say the employees caused the bad times any more than we can say they caused the good times," Robinson said, acknowledging the dismal economy.

"What you're saying is that there will be no 3 percent raises in the future?" he asked the board.

"Department heads could be forced back to zero," but employees will get raises for 2011, Robinson added, depending on how the preliminary budget figures come out.

In other action, the board:

n Approved a high rope challenge course to be built at Eagle Beach Resort between Eagle and Potato Lakes.

Developer Travis Guida told the board low and high ropes courses are springing up all over the country. They're designed to stimulate team building and trust exercises and can be used to overcome fears.

The course must undergo a national certification program and training for instructors to obtain insurance.

Guida said he hopes to begin construction soon.

n Accepted a $500 donation to the Hubbard County Extension Service office from Itasca-Mantrap Co-op for $500 to continue the community gardens projects at six locations.

The board also entered into a purchase of services contract with extension coordinator Sally Shearer to pay her above the 500 hours initially envisioned.

Robinson said she's been asked to do additional work, for which she will be paid $1,700 from budgeted monies.

n Approved the county's five-year road plan with the additions of possibly paving CSAH 2 to County Road 7 and extending work to County 4 north of Lake George, eventually intersecting with County 44.

n Approved the expenditure of $149,355,48 for a new snowplow truck.

n Approved the participation of Hubbard County in Jokela Auctions, Inc.'s consignment auction, to be held in July or August. The county auctions off surplus items and vehicles.

In doing so, the board rejected a bid by North Country Auctions that placed a 5 percent fee on bidders, in addition to fees imposed on the seller.

"When the buyer has to pay an additional 5 percent, you have to quit (bidding) earlier," Johannsen said, questioning whether fees might deter bidders from paying higher amounts.

"We could list 'em (the county's used vehicles" on eBay ourselves," Robinson said. I'm wondering why we shouldn't be doing it that way, or on Craig's List," he said of Internet auction sites.

n Learned the county could lose $150,000 to $160,000 for school-home interventionists that work in the Park Rapids, Nevis and Laporte school districts. The county was not approved to access those state funds, said Hubbard County Social Services Director Daryl Bessler.

"If we can't fix the funding we're only good for another two years," Bessler said. The districts employ eight interventionists that are "vital to the schools," Bessler said.

The county funds the positions up to 50 percent.

n Heard that requests for income maintenance, which had tapered off in April, rose again last month, from 2,226 cases to 2,245.

Average caseloads for social and financial workers have risen from 124 10 years ago to 225 today,

n Approved the purchase of three Taser/camera units for the Hubbard County Sheriff's Department and jail for about $4,600.

"We had an officer recently involved in a wrestling match," Sheriff Frank Homer said of the department's newest full-time deputy Adam Williams. It was discovered later Williams did not have a Taser.

n Discussed Hubbard County joining a risk management consulting group that develops and revises consistent law enforcement policies such as high-speed pursuits, use of force and Tasers and other typical encounters.

The Minnesota Sheriff's Association voted to join the group, Homer told the board, and will help counties implement statewide policies. If counties adopt the policies in accordance with Lexipol's standards, the organization provides legal backup if an agency is ever sued.

Homer estimated the cost at $1,200 to $2,000 annually.

"It allows us to be pro-active," Homer told the board. Adopting standardized policies will assist officers "before something takes place."

n Accepted a boat and water safety grant that will replace the Sheriff's Department's aging Alumacraft with a new model. The state grant will cover $8,329 of the estimated $8,706 costs. Charlie's Boat & Marine in Park Rapids was the low bidder.'

n Passed a resolution in support of the Park Rapids Chamber of Commerce submitting a bid for the 2012 Governor's Fishing Opener to be held on Fish Hook Lake, if successful.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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